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Friday, December 01, 2017

Review: A Mind at Play - How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age

A Mind at Play is a biography of Claude Shannon. When I was an intern at Bellcore, his name was often spoken of in reverence, as the person who invented and developed information theory, which the book does a good job of explaining as well as it does the life of Claude Shannon.

The thesis of the book, which is that Shannon uniquely approached the development and engineering of technology as "fun" rather than work, however, doesn't seem to hold. What I got out of the book was that Shannon was cultivated and mentored by various established scientists (including Vannevar Bush), who appreciated his talent. The "fun" part was that Shannon pursued various other hobbies (including juggling and uni-cycling) rather than just the work he was famous for.

It is true that Shannon has long been neglected compared to other luminaries of his age. This book goes a long way towards correcting that. As such it is recommended reading.

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